"Bizhan Forces Farud to Retreat into his Fort", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: ca. 1430–40

Geography: Attributed to India

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: 7.87 in. high 7.37 in. wide (20 cm high 18.7 cm wide)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920

Accession Number: 20.120.247


This painting illustrates a passage from the great Persian epic history, the Shahnama (Book of Kings). It shows the dramatic confrontation between the hero Bizhan and the brave half-brother of the Iranian king Kai Khusrau, in the moments after each protagonist had slain his opponent's horse.
Although the manuscript from which this painting comes cannot be assigned a precise provenance, it can be associated with one of the Indian sultanates, whose workshops were often staffed not only by Indians but by artists trained in Iran at centers such as Shiraz, Tabriz, or Herat. The Sultanate features of this painting include the almost square format; the use of scale for dramatic effect, as seen in the oversized figure of Bizhan; the disregard for architectural plausibility; the preference for abstract patterns, as seen in the tree and in the rows of archers at the battlements; and the choice of palette, especially the light green ground.